France, Russia risk spreading nuclear know-how: lawmaker

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

A US lawmaker Thursday said France's and Russia's "irresponsible" behavior with nuclear know-how could allow atomic weapons to fall into the hands of rogue states and terrorists.

"Spreading nuclear facilities to unstable regimes throughout the Middle East and the Third World... is laying the groundwork for potential disaster and a vast expansion of proliferation opportunities," Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"Russia and France are the most irresponsible in this regard, with their most senior officials acting as salesmen for their state-owned nuclear corporations," she added.

The hearing, entitled "The Global Nuclear Revival and US Nonproliferation Policy," has been colored by events in Japan, where an aging nuclear reactor in northeast has been leaking radiation after being rocked by explosions and fires following the country's strongest-ever earthquake and a massive tsunami.

"Many are already predicting that the global nuclear revival now underway will be stopped in its tracks by the images of exploding nuclear reactors, terrified refugees, and the prospect of huge areas rendered uninhabitable," Ros-Lehtinen said.

But the frightening events in Japan are unlikely to deter developing countries such as China and "especially in the Middle East" from building on their "nuclear ambitions," said Ros-Lehtinen.

"It is in these countries pursuing nuclear power for political aims, many for destructive goals, that the risk of proliferation is the greatest," she warned, citing Iran and North Korea as examples of "rogue nations" that are using nuclear energy programs as a cover to develop atomic weapons.

Russia helped Iran build its Bushehr nuclear reactor, which Tehran insists will be used only to produce atomic energy but the West fears could serve as a front for developing nuclear weapons.

North Korea officials last year showed visiting US experts an apparently functional uranium enrichment plant, which Western experts fear could be used for making atomic bombs.

© 2011 AFP

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